This year New York State has opened an early bear season in September because bear numbers in certain areas have increased. I decided to take advantage of that and do some bear hunting before the regular season. That way I can avoid the competition from deer hunters, as the deer season overlaps with the bear season. So, I grabbed my gear and got going.
In my experience, animals, including bears, are most active in the mornings and evenings. To take advantage of that, I started out early. I was out and making my way through the forest by 4:30 am. I had scouted the area before, and knew there was a large adult bear in the area. I had had an encounter with him earlier in the year and kept my rifle at the ready in case I ran into him. Small bears tend to run away if you cross paths, but the big ones my charge.
Hunting big game this early in the year is not my favorite activity, especially here in the northeast. The forests here are dense enough as it is, but while all the vegetations is still out, visibility is almost non existent. Unlike out west, where long range hunting is common, here in the east, hunting out in the forests happens at very close range. Unless you are in a man made clearing, out in the woods typical range for a shot is about 20 yards. If you have a 50 yard clear shot, you are very lucky. Glassing for game is not a realistic hunting technique here. Your best bet is to ambush or call in the animal. That is why you see so much tree stand hunting.
The signs weren’t optimistic. I found a good amount of deer and turkey sign (naturally because I wasn’t hunting either), but no sign of bear.
Because it is early in the year, and probably because it has been warm and humid, the plants and animals were abundant, including the mosquitoes. I am currently covered in bites.
This area of the forest is comprised of mixture of deciduous trees and pines. The deciduous parts of the forest were overgrown, so I made my way towards the more open pine areas. Just as I was nearing my desired location, I heard some loud hauling. It sounded like a person was trying to imitate a coyote, but wasn’t doing a very good job. I figured someone else was hunting in the area, so I proceeded carefully. A few minutes later, I saw a large coyote running away about 30 yards to my right. Apparently that’s what some coyote’s actually sound like.
I found a somewhat open area, and set up. My set up doesn’t really mean much. I just get low to the ground, and make sure that I have a line of sight 270 degrees in front of me, and that there is dense vegetation to my back. I’ve had good luck with this set up before.
My tools were simple. All I brought was a Buck Gardner predator call (distressed rabbit/mouse combo call), a T.A.G. game bag kit, a 25 gallon trash bag, and my Savage 11/111 rifle chambered in .308.
By the time I got to the location it was a bit after 9:00 am. I got into position and started making distressed rabbit calls and listening. Even though I was in a relatively open area, I still didn’t have visibility much past 50 yards, with clear lines of sight for no more than 20 to 30 yards. I would hear any animal coming long before I saw it.
Not long after, I heard a noise to my left. It wasn’t a bear, but rather a young buck. He was clearly attracted by my calls. He wasn’t randomly passing through the area, but instead was headed straight for me. He would look at me, grunt, mark the area, circle a bit, then do the same.
I couldn’t tell the exact number of points, but the main antlers were about a foot long. My hope was to be able to see them more clearly from the pictures, but this is the best my point and shoot camera can do. Of course, this was all happening because it isn’t deer season yet. Once deer season starts, I’m sure I’m not going to see a single one.
Keeping with the tradition of only seeing animals that you are not hunting, a nice, fat, gray squirrel decided to come down from the trees and pose in front of me, knowing that all I had with me was my .308.
Anyway, I kept calling for the rest of the morning with no luck. Shortly after noon, I took a brake and ate some lunch.
After that I decided to change locations. There was another relatively open area further east. I packed up and started moving. I had to go through some dense vegetations in order to get there.
I kept going for about half hour through the brush, trying to navigate. I broke through some thick brush, and to my great surprise, about 5 to 10 yards ahead of me was a small black bear. Clearly it was as surprised as I was. I threw down my map, and tried to shoulder the rifle. I’m used to lifting the rifle into position with nothing on my shoulder, and didn’t account for the fact that I had my backpack on, which has rather thick shoulder straps. The but of the rifle caught on the strap, so, I had to reposition it. All this took about two seconds, but by that time the bear was running like there was no tomorrow. I didn’t want to take a shot at a running animal.
I got low to the ground, and tried to call it back, but with no luck. It wasn’t the bear I had come for, but I was still disappointed to have missed it. I don’t really mind unsuccessful hunt. I enjoy being out in the woods, and hunting is just a bonus. However, when you get that close and miss, it keeps me up at night for a long time afterwards. All I could do was make my way out of the thick brush.
I didn’t bother doing any calling in the evening. I’m not a fan of trying to call in a bear and then going to sleep in the same area. I just pulled out the mat and sleeping bag for some rest. Lately I’ve stopped using the tent unless I expect rain or snow.
Anyway, that was it for the hunting. I had to make my way out, and I wasn’t going to take a bear unless I had the time to process it properly.
The pack you see in the pictures is my Gregory Palisade 80. It’s my big pack, and I brought it in case I had to carry out meat and fur. Unfortunately there was no need for its intended purpose. I kept it somewhat filled with my uncompressed sleeping bag. It was very disappointing to be heading out of the forest with a very light pack, especially under the circumstances. That being said, I was very happy to get away from the mosquitoes.